The Principle of Uncertainty

by Mária Ferenčuhová

The Principle of Uncertainty

Bright Cities


The summer is not going, it stays like inflammation on stuffy roads,

warm stone, no trace of steps (and yet humidity in the air);

wounds are not healing, the same movement every afternoon — to wipe

the dust from one’s eyes and the oil from hot wheels. October.

Not even return: continuance in crevices — the city doesn’t remember,

nor do you wish to: numb footsoles, chapped hands, why not admit —

a strait, a passage, from behind the corner surfacing instead of (another)

memory, a street. Another one. Identical.

And a madman on the platform, quite desolate

(no one is scared of him any more), change at Réaumur-Sébastopol:

on the very top a man is sleeping in his socks,

a bandage sticking out of one, but hardly anyone dares cover his nose.

Behind the window without blinds someone gets drunk,

quite solitary, behind a window with a blind I change my make-up,

I don’t air the place, I silently invoke the telephone,

till finally I fall asleep.



A finger code, noise, secret entrances, to be angry with oneself

for being (in the first moment) unrestrained, for being (in the second)

reasonable, and resent one’s loneliness — where’s the virtue in that?

From the point of view of eternity, it doesn’t matter whether in this

world, side by side with this body (or some other), from the momentary

point of view: to choose emptiness. And wait.


An old woman, in fact rather mouldered than old, perhaps senile

and possibly bewildered for ages past, takes the lift up and down,

greets at great length, aloud, repeats “yes”, “yes” over and over again,

addresses everyone as “madam”, “sir” with an assiduous smile,

and touches children’s cheeks with her fingers.

A pin in someone’s stomach, a word in someone’s heart:

quarantine, forty days of silence.

A flame, cellophane, a scorched image,

you infect the whole colony with yourself, and you’re surprised

when they condemn you.



There are wooden houses, plastered or just stuck together with cloth,

carpets instead of walls, cables in the corners, dust in the joints

and the wind under the door.

A jug kettle, a microwave oven, a hot plate,

someone who sleeps,

not moving. He who follows meanders, not aware of the riverbanks

bare of green, indifferent to the pavement: who continues on

to where people ride camels

with knapsack on back,

where grey blocks of flats stand in the sand like a suburb,

only they are burning,

with tents below the windows,

a waterless fountain and the sky in flames,

you want to go back to the river, there’s no way,

— not in the dream, and therefore not at all —

you need only to open your eyes, run along the walls,

burning carpets, acrid smoke,

barefoot and apronless:

those stairs

are still there.

© Mária Ferenčuhová, translated by Marián Andričík